Take A Family Road Trip: The Butterflies Are There

Record-setting Monarch Butterfly numbers beckon you north
By CYNTHIA YANG, Weekendr Staff Writer
Published on Feb 2, 2022

Do you remember last year when we wrote about efforts to help re-populate the Monarch Butterfly population in California? That work has  apparently paid off and now, according to our friends at visitcalifornia.com, 2021 showed an increase in the number of monarchs migrating along the West Coast. 

In Pismo Beach the number of monarchs wintering has gone up by 3,500 percent compared to last year. 

And if you’d like to see them in their natural habitat, plan your trip soon, because you’ll be driving to Pismo Beach, just over a three-hour drive. 

And the butterflies will have moved on by the end of February. 

The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is one of only five sites in the state that has counts of over 10,000 butterflies annually, we’ve learned. Thousands of orange and black Monarch Butterflies hang at Pismo State Beach, along their migration route, seeking shelter from cold northern winters. 

From late October to February (that’s like, now), the butterflies cluster in the limbs of Eucalyptus trees along an estuary that flows to the Pacific Ocean. 

The grove is easily accessible from CA State Highway 1 at the south boundary of the city limits of Pismo Beach.

See a few “kaleidoscopes,” which is what groups of butterflies are called, this winter along the Western Monarch Trail, a partnership between the Central Coast State Parks Association and several preservation organizations. 

Along a 57-mile road trip along this stretch of Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo County, there are monarch hotspots, made up of nature preserves, golf courses, and a campground.

You can begin your butterfly peep at  Hearst San Simeon State Park, at the foot of  Hearst Castle. Look for clusters of orange high up in eucalyptus trees above the beach, near Hearst Ranch Winery. About one mile south, at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, the butterflies roost in a native forest right by the shoreline.

Continue south around Morro Bay, including the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos, a 24-acre natural preserve. The Pismo Beach area marks the southern end of the trail, where the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove at Pismo State Beach hosts one of the largest monarch colonies in North America. 

The monarchs here seem partial to the local Monterey cypress trees; since those branches are often only about 15 feet off the ground, the butterflies are even easier to see.

Pack up the chips, a dog leash, headphones for the kids,  make like butterflies, and head north. 

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